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Sitting in the Orange Tree by marinahill
Chapter 5: The Pool Of Reflection
The rain fell. My eyes grew accustomed to the grey world that had replaced the white, the dull mist covering all that I had previously been able to see. I sat comfortably in the orange tree once more, enjoying the support that the branches gave me. The scent of the oranges was muted, the citrus smell fading into the grey. Besides the negative atmosphere, I felt content. Another season had passed, another collection of feelings. It passed quickly, as though sensing my new found comfort with my surroundings. In fact, it felt like no time at all, and for that I was grateful. I no longer wanted to be miserable, I did not wish to wallow in my misfortune. I accepted that this was it, and I wanted to make the most of what I had.
Through the mist I saw a dark shape, a small, slender figure walking towards me. My heart raced as my eyes assessed the figure; my Luna was gliding towards me, the shadow making no impression on the world around me. She seemed not to be much denser than the grey mist around her, almost like an echo.
Why was she here? I quickly dropped from the orange tree, my bare feet flinching as they hit the cool ground. I approached my young daughter, fear holding me in its cruel palms. I had felt something unsettling in the White world recently, and I had been unsure of what could have caused such a disturbance. This, I thought, was the answer. My daughter was dead.
As I came closer to the shadow, colour ran its way across the shape, defining the young face and dirty blonde hair. This could be no one else but my daughter. It was the way she held herself, how her jaw was slightly defiant. I shivered as the reality of the situation hit me; something was terribly wrong. Just before her face came into view, she turned, allowing me to see only the back of her head. She glided away from me, and I felt inclined to follow. Most dead people here did not glide, or so I had seen. She had a strangely ethereal quality, earning her place in this world.
I looked behind me, seeing the orange tree standing out against the grey horizon. Its old and twisted branches were stiffened at an odd angle, almost as if they were waving goodbye to me. I shuddered and trained my eyes on the shadow of my daughter. Every so often, the dark shadow would show a patch of colour, as parts of her hair were close enough to me to allow me to see her. I tried to catch up with the strange apparition, but she seemed to go as fast as I did; it was like trying to reach the end of the rainbow. I wondered if I'd ever get close to her.
The grey mist gradually faded, the stark white nothingness replacing it. The shadow too became lighter, looking as through the light were passing right through it. She shimmered, as though made of water and my eyes couldn’t leave her figure; I was captivated.
She stopped, and I was able to close the distance between us. As I reached her, her body slowly sank into the ground as she melted. At first I was truly horrified. However, as I watched on, my hand over my mouth, I saw that she was creating a silver puddle. It was similar to unicorn blood, the way it shimmered and glinted as my eyes drank it in. I looked around, but all I saw was white. There was nowhere and nothing else to look at except the strange pool in front of me.
I knew then that the figure had not really been my daughter, my Luna. If it had been, then I knew some sort of horror, panic, or sadness would have overcome me. My time in the White world had taught me to trust my instincts and feelings in a way I had never been able to before. If I did not feel as though my daughter had just melted in front of me, then it had not happened. It was a strange concept; nothing in this world made sense, yet I could trust what I experienced much more than I could in the living world where everything added up. I didn’t feel the need to understand everything, and it was much easier to accept. It was a welcome relief.
I looked into the pool of silvery fluid at my feet and saw my reflection looking back up at me. I had to look twice, for the reflection I saw was not what I remembered looking like. No, I seemed much younger, and I could almost have mistaken myself for my daughter. Realisation struck me, and I knew at once that it wasn’t my daughter who I had been following; it was me. And I looked down fondly on my former self, unable to tear my eyes away. My eyes were the same; dark brown and wide, as though ready to see what life brought me. My eyebrows were the same shade as my hair, a dirty blonde colour that I had always loved. My face, however, was much younger and less weathered. I still had that innocent glow that age removes. And how innocent I had been. In my younger years, I had craved attention and love, always wanting to please those whom I loved. My parents, yes, but also teachers and friends of my parents. I wanted them to dote on me, to praise me, to recognise me for the unique person I was. They greeted me with cries of “how extraordinary!” and “how peculiar!”. I did not know then quite what they had meant by these terms; I thought being different was a blessing. Life had taught me otherwise.
I was always destined to be different, and although while I was alive I hated it, now I knew that it was indeed a good thing. Being normal wasn’t being me, and now when I was being faced with a lonely eternity, I was ever glad that I was me. If I had to spend a hundred years alone, I needed to be comfortable with myself, happy with my own company. And that I always had been.
My younger counterpart gave a shy smile and faded into the silvery pool. I reached out with my left hand and touched the liquid; it was not like water or blood, as I had imagined. It was almost a gas and as I touched it, it flowed over my fingers. A thought ran through my mind and I nearly laughed at how I had not seen it before.
Memories. These were my own, my treasured memories. What else would lead me here in such a manner? It could almost be a metaphorical dream had I been anywhere else. But, I observed, I was in a place full of extraordinary things where anything was possible. Why couldn’t my memory have led me here?
I smiled as I thought about what I had discovered. I had always loved memories, and I had been fortunate enough to have a rather good one, if I did say so myself. It was nice to reflect on things past, and see how they had shaped me as a person. I had always loved to discuss with Xenophilius about how our pasts had made us who we were… he seemed to think it was a load of nonsense (which was slightly hypocritical coming from someone who believed in Nargles). What would I have been like now if I had not been expelled from Hogwarts? I could have been a rich witch, maybe, with the extra tuition I would have had. There were many ‘what if’s, and I took the time as I stared at the silver pool to think about them. What if there weren’t any ‘what if’s? To me it seemed like the most likely solution. Life had to have happened the way it did or else I wouldn’t even be thinking about the same ‘what if’s as I was now, instead thinking about the ‘what if’s of a different me. Was it better not to think at all what could have been, seeing as nothing was going to change the past and there was no point in thinking about it? That, to me, seemed plausible. This was how my ‘life’ was, and that was how it was going to stay. Had it happened any other way I wouldn’t be me.
Sighing, I retreated from the strange pool of reflections, keeping my eye on it as I walked away. Once I had gotten far enough away, the pool gathered together on the ground and rose up, forming my young self once more. I did not follow myself, instead just stood there, watching.
I walked until I reached my orange tree, though I didn’t climb it. I admired its beauty for once, appreciating all that it did for me. Without this tree, I would have no contact with the real world; I would have nothing to hang around for. I assumed, of course, that that was what I was waiting for. Something. And, for now, I was happy to wait for it.
I held out the wand that the tree had made me, and felt the warmth in my body grow as I held it out. My old wand hadn’t fit as perfectly as this one did, and it wasn’t even made of wand wood. With my orange tree wand, the magic seemed to come from within me rather from the wood, and I liked it. It was me who was in control for once, me who was empowering the tool. It wasn’t a means of doing magic, but an aid. And magic was something I missed dearly. Even seeing glimpses of Luna at Hogwarts made me long for my home. I closed my eyes, wanting more than anything to see my lovely daughter. I wanted it to be me who decided to return to the living world, not the orange tree. I was in control.
It worked. It worked. I was delirious with joy as I opened my eyes and saw the gloriousness of my surroundings. Standing in the middle of the Great Hall, I could see all the young witches and wizards around me as they filed in for lunch. On closer inspection, I could see that this was not just any lunch; no, it was Christmas lunch. My mouth nearly watered at the sight of the delicious meal the house elves had prepared. Eating was something I hadn’t done in six years, if my maths was correct. And, yes, I saw, Luna was sitting at the Ravenclaw table with other third years, her little face lit up with Christmas spirit. Oh, how I loved Christmas. And, I saw, Luna loved it too.
She had always loved Christmas day, and I had loved sharing it with her and Xenophilius. It was a time for family and those few close friends we had. A yearly ritual was decorating the Christmas tree to Celestina Warbeck, Xenophilius’s favourite singer. I didn’t really have much time for her myself, but I understood that listening to her at Christmas was tradition. Luna had to decorate the tree herself, or she would make me take all the decorations down so she could start again… I wondered if she got to decorate a tree herself this year. I could imagine her asking Hagrid if she could help decorate. I smiled to myself, fond of these precious memories. Looking at my daughter now, I could almost forget how small and dainty she was as a baby.
A small wave of longing crept up on me as I watched her, and I wished more than anything I could be sharing the joy and happiness with. I wondered if she ever missed me at all, whether she would have wanted with the same feelings as I did that we could be together again. I knew my love for her would never fade, and I’d never forget how special she was. Part of me was scared that she would forget me, forget the moments we shared before I died. Right now, she looked as though she had no cares in the world. I suppose that was what I wanted; I would never want her to be miserable. But the barrier between us made me feel helpless. I so wished to be part of her life once more, and I knew it was hard to accept that that could never happen.
I looked around, searching for Harry so I could tell James and Lily how he was doing. There he was, at the Gryffindor table, surrounded by all his friends. Their excited chatter filled the hall, and it was infectious. I didn’t bother fighting the urge to laugh long and hard, an unadulterated laugh that was rarely heard coming from my lips. There was no one here who could see me, and I felt free. As I laughed, Hogwarts faded until it became white. Still I laughed, and tears fell from my eyes and down my cheeks. I had not felt so happy in a long time. It boosted my energy, making me want to skip as far as I could and cry out in joy. Such feelings were not ones I expected in death. Where my tears fell on the white ground the orange tree grew, twisting and stretching until it reached its full height. The fresh smell of oranges and cinnamon filled the air around me, reminding me of the scent of Christmas. It blossomed all around me, reborn and more beautiful than I had ever seen it.
“Why did you laugh, Aurelia?” Beth asked me much later as I relayed my experience with her.
I thought for a moment before answering her. “Life is such a wonderful thing. And I had only just realised it!”
I saw Beth grin in response to my epiphany. Then she too began to laugh along with me, as though the joy of life had filled her once again.